GPS systems could begin to fail next year

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has come out recently that reveals a scary, yet real, truth about our aging GPS system satellites. The ones that orbit our planet and provide consumers, businesses and military with accurate positions for everything from where to drop a smart bomb to directions to the nearest Starbucks.

The aging satellites are running on a 20-year-old system which has been maintained by the U.S. government since the early 1990's and could need to be replaced and/or updated within a year.

According to The Guardian, overspending and delays have prevented the latest update from taking place, putting the entire system in jeopardy. The U.S. Air Force currently has a $2 billion dollar project to update the current GPS system, by replacing the first GPS satellites, but that was due to launch back in 2007 and has yet to leave the ground.

Some have also proposed an additional tax on GPS services, in order to fund additional improvements, but opponents say it is something which would be very hard to track.

The failing GPS could swing open the door to offers of Galileo, the European-funded attempt to rival America's GPS system. In addition, other countries including Russia, India and China have all developed their own satellite navigation technologies that are being expanded.

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With all the space junk floating about already, surely we cant just go on throwing more satellites up there? All that crap in orbit must be a greater long term threat to GPS should it collide with one or more existing satellites? Still, I call bull on this, it seems like propaganda to pave the way for getting us to pay.

I would be fully prepared to pay a fee to use the GPS service, in fact, I think that's a pretty good idea. It would give the gov't some money and so they can update it instead of waiting for a budget. I am a little surprised it isn't a pay service as it is.

GPS is an extremely important service. The merchant ships depend solely on them for navigation. It might be that today's merchant marine officers may not even be aware of the sextant which can be used to find their location, just like the school kids who do not know their multiplication tables and need a calculator for even simple double digit multiplications.

Don't worry much about GPS. GLONASS works fine and should restore full global coverage next year. It's now public, so satellite navigators will begin supporting it soon.

I'm assuming the replacement system will be fully compatible with current GPS receivers. Maybe some extras but that won't break backwards compatibility...

GPS should remain free , free at the cost of the GPS receiver device. The phones and professional GPS revicers already cost alot of money. Is it all how much some people have in their accounts ? From what i see... they don't give a F**k about the people... remember ? "we the people" (I'm not a us resident ,but i strongly believe in the US constitution)

you know news reports don't have a clue what they are talking about when you hear quotes from them like this, "with the overwhelming increase in GPS devices, there is an incredable strain put on the system and the current system that was designed for a few military systems can not handle it"... its um a system that sends out RF signals, you send NO data to it... how in the world does more devices put a strain on it?! someone needs to educate reporters / writers before they spew BS to the public...

neufuse said,
you know news reports don't have a clue what they are talking about when you hear quotes from them like this, "with the overwhelming increase in GPS devices, there is an incredable strain put on the system and the current system that was designed for a few military systems can not handle it"... its um a system that sends out RF signals, you send NO data to it... how in the world does more devices put a strain on it?! someone needs to educate reporters / writers before they spew BS to the public...

TELL ME ABOUT IT! and this is not exclusive to things that dont really matter, either. they screw up and miss report ALL KINDS of things that are SUPER important. like gun control, ugh, dont even get me started.

Well, it's not unheard of that targets weren't hit properly. Mostly due to a human error, I would figure anyway. Someone punches in the wrong coordinates, and a man loses his home and family, having to dig them out and bury them himself...

NotSoBad said,
The Military have a hard enough time hitting the right target with GPS, God help us without it !!!

not all munitions and ordinance is dropped using GPS. there is wire guided, laser guided, smart munitions, lots of things. there is also a big chance that the ordinance did land on target, its just the intelligence regarding the target was incorrect.

all that aside, the US military does not use this GPS system anymore, they have their own exclusively for military actions.

Nose Nuggets said,
all that aside, the US military does not use this GPS system anymore, they have their own exclusively for military actions.

Incorrect, as said above by serveral people, the same satellites are used, they just transmit a range of different signals for different purposes.

Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPS_signals for a list and explanations.

I read "for everything from where to drop a smart bomb on the nearest Starbucks" LOL

Not worried, this is one thing that bloated military budget is good for.

Don't forget it is not the US DoD Government satellites we are using for consumer GPS systems.

It was a private company that funded it, but you can bet it will be the US Government bailing them out to fix it.

Source? I'm pretty sure it is. It was developed by DOD and is run by the Air Force 50th space wing.

All the GPS Sats do is transmit a signal all the time, and the GPS receivers grab that signal and figure out their own position. The data is not transmitted back to the GPS Sat. So there is no bandwidth, or load put on the GPS Sats.

So I can't imagine the DOD having a second set up there just for their use, that does the exact same thing. It doesn't make sense.

RawGutts said,
Don't forget it is not the US DoD Government satellites we are using for consumer GPS systems.

It was a private company that funded it, but you can bet it will be the US Government bailing them out to fix it.


You sir, are wrong... they are the same exact sat's, just the air force can use them a bit more effectively due to a different algorithm and access to a little more info sent from the sat that the consumer cant use

You're kind of out on a limb there. The GPS constellation IS MILITARY. Like the internet, it started getting used for civvie stuff till the controlling interest (Congress) realized how damaging it would be for the airlines, trucking, crop managagement, etc who rely on accurate location data would be damaged if the military started fudging the signals. It still is MILITARY. and given military intelligence, has been allowed to degrade while the next best thing has been allowed to suffer parameter expansion and milking like all good defense contracting does in the long run.

The technology of Galileo would have caused serious trouble with the existing GPS-System.

It was the U.S. military that told the Europe, that they had to stop continuing Galileo,
like the way they build it, oh, I forget, the E.U. is teh new Soviet Russia, and must
be stopped, by all means, cause of, you know, world domiantion and evrythang!

It would be more better if our current scientists launch something ike GPS 2.0, with new features and some sort of like that stuffs....

Krazy Bluez said,
It would be more better if our current scientists launch something ike GPS 2.0, with new features and some sort of like that stuffs....

Yeah im with you just use those ufos i mean wether balloons.

Eddo89 said,
Is there ANY space project that did not overspend?

Yeah... the entire 13 year Apollo project with 6 successfully missions to the moon and back cost us a pithy 130 billion adjusted for inflation.

TO THE MOON

/and back
//6 times

Golly, that's hilarious! People won't be following their SatNav into the local canal, driving trucks across shortcuts that turn out to be heavily rutted one-way dirt roads and driving forest service roads that even the locals fear to use. Oh, that we should be so lucky!

Are you serious? GPS is extremely useful, it's only idiots who blindly follow anything something tells them. If you see that the highway you're supposed to be on is really a dirt ditch, why would you continue? Not to mention that's very rare. A GPS is just a map that reads itself so you don't have to. What's not to like?

Chasethebase said,
+1

Maps > SatNav

So a map that you have to look at while you're supposed to be driving is better than a map you don't have to look at and gives you instructions verbally?

Still find it hilarious that this highly technological country could be so short sighted as to allow you all to fall into the clutches of having to read those dreaded paper maps. When will we have to go back to using ground radar and gaming tables to tell where the enemy aircraft are located?

gollux said,
Still find it hilarious that this highly technological country could be so short sighted as to allow you all to fall into the clutches of having to read those dreaded paper maps. When will we have to go back to using ground radar and gaming tables to tell where the enemy aircraft are located?

In case of war ( a real one, not just a unilateral vendetta) you can bet that one of the first objective will be to put down the gps and communication satellites.

Magallanes said,
In case of war ( a real one, not just a unilateral vendetta) you can bet that one of the first objective will be to put down the gps and communication satellites.

GPS will still be up and functional in war time. Just the military channels though. The civillian channels can be fudged for broad error or shut off completely.

I thought 24 satellites were required for a working system around the globe, but they keep 32+ satellites in orbit in case something "changes."

I heard it was 31 they had in orbit but my knowledge might be outdated. Anyway, at least if some start to "break" then they have enough "spare" to replace them with for a while at least.

Hhhmmm... And Y2K was supposed to be a reality as well. I ewas actually disappointed that absolutely nothing happened on January 01, 2000. But the hype was sure fun

Pretty sure this isn't anything to worry about; just send more up. And besides, aren't at least like 7 visible at any given point on Earth? I thought you only needed 3 to synchronize.

Raikou Tch said,
Pretty sure this isn't anything to worry about; just send more up. And besides, aren't at least like 7 visible at any given point on Earth? I thought you only needed 3 to synchronize.

Three to triangulate a position on a flat plane. A forth (azimuth) to determine elevation.

I'm sure they can find the measly 2 billion dollars in the 515 billion dollar military budget, really, they could probably just look under the sofa cushions.

twist said,
I'm sure they can find the measly 2 billion dollars in the 515 billion dollar military budget, really, they could probably just look under the sofa cushions.

This is going to be obamas next stimulus sending ass tronauts to fix it. It will create jobs in florida for those who lost their 401 ks in the stock market.

twist said,
I'm sure they can find the measly 2 billion dollars in the 515 billion dollar military budget, really, they could probably just look under the sofa cushions.

Hey, maybe they'll find the money that seems to "go missing" from time to time!

I'm sure the government will get it fixed in time. The military depends on GPS so I'm sure we won't be in a situation where the bulk of our defenses don't work... The US spends far too much money on defence for that to be realistic.

andrewbares said,
Yep. So is GPS free once you buy the GPS unit???


Yeah, totally free. It's taking advantage of a system that's already in place without putting any particular extra strain on it.

You know, like text messaging.

Joshie said,
Yeah, totally free. It's taking advantage of a system that's already in place without putting any particular extra strain on it.

You know, like text messaging.

lol +1

andrewbares said,
Yep. So is GPS free once you buy the GPS unit???


The United States military does not rely on the existing GPS system for battle-field navigation or operations tactics. There is a far more advanced system in place for military operations; which is exactly why the current GPS system is available to the public. However, this is also likely why the Departmnent of Defense does not feel it necessary to upgrade a (commercial) platform. It is a tremendous expense, with little to no return from a defense perspective.

Frazell Thomas said,
I'm sure the government will get it fixed in time. The military depends on GPS so I'm sure we won't be in a situation where the bulk of our defenses don't work... The US spends far too much money on defence for that to be realistic.

Nope we dont have money to fix it. We spent all the money fixin' or rebuildin' the terrorists countries.

Wow, that's rich. Don't complain about the money spent bombing their country; complain about helping the people who didn't deserve to be caught in the crossfires...

dead.cell said,
Wow, that's rich. Don't complain about the money spent bombing their country; complain about helping the people who didn't deserve to be caught in the crossfires...

Cause you know they really deserved it. Damn them for not abandoning their home.

bradsday said,
The United States military does not rely on the existing GPS system for battle-field navigation or operations tactics. There is a far more advanced system in place for military operations;

Which is transmitted from the same satellites, which are getting old and nearing the end of their useful life. So when the satellite goes, both services go.

You're right, the military does use the same satellites. The satellites are nothing but extremely accurate clocks, the difference between military and public use gps lies in the gps reciever itself. Military gps recievers access up to 10 satellites and are much more powerful, where public gps units only access 3 satellites and there processing power is much less than military units.

Plus, the U.S. military caps what personal use units can do the the use of different radio frequencies. Military uses frequency "xxx" and public access uses frequency "xxy"

What a beatup, this story is a load of rubbish.

The GPS satellites used by the public are exactly the same ones used by the US military. There are spare ones in orbit ready to be moved into position if one fails.

The US military will replace them as necessary.